Talk on the Step is the young jazz guitarist Dan Messore’s second release as leader for the dynamic jazz indie label Babel – his debut earlier in the year was the self-titled Indigo Kid. Messore is one of the UK’s young legion of forward-looking musicians in his absorption of contemporary lyrical modes of jazz guitar and other idioms such as singer-songwriter rock and more global rootsy music. But he also stands out from the rest of the crowd with his engaging sound and understated refinement. Traditional jazz values are as important to him as the need to journey into the unknown. One of these being the desire to surround himself with experienced veterans of the music as well as his youthful peers. While the refreshingly uplifting Indigo Kid band from earlier in the year featured his mentor the great UK saxophonist Iain Ballamy, the five piece Lacuna features the graceful, influential Miles/Kenny Wheeler-influenced trumpeter Steve Waterman, another inspirational figure for Messore primarily as his tutor in jazz arrangements. When Messore, an ex-Masters jazz student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, said he “wanted the feel of the album to be spring like and joyous” he must have also had the multireedist Lee Goodall in mind. Another veteran (and the skilled producer of the album), Goodall has performed with a vastly eclectic array of key artists from Marcus Miller to Kirk Lightsey, from Andy Sheppard to Van Morrison. Here his witty bop-led flute playing captures just the sunny, uplifting characteristics Messore is speaking about. The go-to young rhythm section of bassist Aidan Thorne and drummer Ollie Howell as with Messore, are both from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Howell is an exceptional drummer winning the highest accolades from none other than Quincy Jones. On a visit to the college in 2009, Quincy described Howell as, “an unbelievable drummer” and with the frontline capture a group essence to the music.”

Messore’s continual desire for “landscape and strong narrative” in his compositions flows though the recording, his originals being a mouth-watering springboard for the excellent improvisers here. His ‘Mariposa’ (meaning ‘butterfly’ in Portuguese) with its whirling flute and Messore’s Brazilian-influenced semi-acoustic jazz guitar begins the album how it means to go on. It recalls the imaginative buoyancy of Brazilian jazz prophet Hermeto Pascoal, one of the key influences in Messore’s career so far. The title track has a Thelonious Monk-like theme while ‘Wowge’ perhaps best demonstrates the diversity of Messore’s musical identity, with its recurring poignantly breezy Jeff Buckley-like guitar giving way to a swaggering funk groove before a free-flowing straightahead cool bop kicks in, faintly echoing Miles’ mid-1950s quintet. The more folkily English wistful inflections of ‘A Bit of Light’ leads to the sweet flow of ‘Nights of Sober Solitude’ with Steve Waterman’s exquisite-toned muted trumpet owing something to 1950s west Coast cool, with its zigzag-y Lee Konitz/Lennie Tristano styled theme. ‘Shortcomings’ has the stamp of 1960s era Wayne Shorter with its haunting twisting modal moods and the set closes on ‘Missing’, its theme encouraging a typical interweaving dialogue from Goodall and Waterman, with their wittily bluesy sax and muted trumpet revealing a simplicity that nevertheless has all the imagination and resourcefulness of the best of the jazz tradition.